John Marsden Writing Topic #159
On the outside looking in (Bindi Thompson)**
You are cordially invited to the reunion of GoGirls! at the Worthington Function Centre on Saturday September 13th 2025. Please RSVP to Mrs Valerie Morganside by Friday August 14th and inform her of whether you will be bringing along your spouse and/or family members.
Paris Juanita Heeley–GoGirls! Co-Founder and Guitarist
When I got the invite, there was only one thing I was surprised by…that Valerie took so long to put it together.
Valerie was my manager when I was a teenager, unlike most of the stereotypical agents out there, she cared very deeply for my well-being and career. Under her my three albums went gold, my singles were in the top 40 and all my appearances went without a hitch, I was quite blessed.
In January 1995 when I turned 18 and wanted to spread my wings, she came up with the idea of a teenage girl band and for me to lead. She thought that I missed out on the opportunity on being mentored by other successful teenage musicians and wanted me to provide this opportunity for other up-and-coming girls. She also thought working with other musicians my age would expand my repertoire and artistry.
Both Valerie and I would be judges at the auditions and ultimately picked the girls. We knew we would need a drummer, pianist, percussionist and singers. Finding older girls was easier compared to younger and we found our drummer in 17-year-old Geraldine “Geri” Hollows, she was interesting as she didn’t have stage fright but didn’t want to be centre stage, she was happier drumming and being a little further away from the crowd, however she wasn’t demanding either. Geri also brought her long-time best friend, Melanie “Mel” Shaughnessy, her and Mel always won their high school’s “Battle of the Bands” competitions with their talents, especially with Mel knocking her vocals out of the park.
One thing we didn’t expect was two sets of siblings auditioning—The Roberts family had Brittany, 17 and a vocal superstar, Jennifer, 15 and a pianist and youngest, Nelti 13 who had mastered several percussion instruments and was eager to learn more. On top of their instrumental talents, the Roberts’ girls had incredible vocals to back them up. The Medley family had two close sisters, Fiona, 16, with equal talents to Jennifer on piano and vocals and Bonnie, 13, with equal talents to Nelti on percussion. Luckily all the girls in both families became close friends and there were no diva antics.
It was a rocky start for us, it was hard for the music industry, radio stations and the general public to take a teenage girl band seriously, especially with our name, GoGirls! Valerie and I both chose the name, we wanted both the girls to be empowered within themselves and empowering to other girls their age. Everyone eventually warmed up to us and when our first album was released and surprisingly went Platinum, our lives changed forever.
We did everything–live performances, supporting acts for other singers, TV, radio and a tour. We really took off and the girls were complete naturals. While all of our lives changed forever, my life changed forever not long after we hit the year mark, when Alan came along.
Alan and I met after one of our concerts, he took his then-14 year old daughter, Annabelle, as a present for her birthday, and asked for my autograph. When Annabelle walked off to shop at the concession stand, he asked for my phone number. I knew I wanted to go out with him but this had never happened to me before and he was clearly much older than me. Valerie told me that we were both adults and to be discreet so there weren’t too many rumours or press coverage.
Alan turned out to be 44—25 years older than me, a widower of five years and a father of four children, two of them older than me. Brett was 27, Kym was 24, Stuart was 17 and the youngest, Annabelle. Alan was honest with all of us from the beginning, even more so with me as Brett and Kym weren’t thrilled about me being a part of his life and accused me of being a gold digger. Stuart didn’t agree with his older siblings entirely but was less frosty as he liked me and the fact that I seemed to make his dad happy for the first time since their mother died. Annabelle liked me as she had another woman to talk to as Kym travelled constantly due to her job as a flight attendant.
When Alan proposed they weren’t any happier, we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and I knew the moment I said yes that a new chapter of my life would begin…which meant that my time with the GoGirls! was over. We were at the two year mark, the girls were on top of the world and I knew that Geraldine was ready to take over. Valerie also asked me if I had any ideas for a replacement, she said it wasn’t entirely necessary but asked me if I knew anyone looking for an opportunity. My then-13 year old cousin, Rochelle Langston, was perfect with her proficiency on multiple instruments and her experience in back-up vocals on my own albums. The girls were sad that I was leaving, but were happy for me for my reason for leaving.
Alan and I married after a year together on February 1st 1997, when I was 20 and Alan, 45. Brett and Kym still weren’t happy, Stuart had warmed up to me a bit more and Annabelle was happy for us. The dynamics completely changed when our daughter, Aimee Marie Brenda Heeley, was born on December 12th 2006. By this point, Brett had married and had a child of his own, Kym moved on to work for an airline in the U.S., Stuart moved to Auckland after graduating from uni and Annabelle had just graduated from uni herself and was still figuring out her life. When Aimee was born, for Brett and Kym, it was confirmation that I wasn’t a gold digger despite the fact that Alan and I had been married for nine years by that point. Her middle name, ‘Brenda’ was in honour of their mother, a way of keeping her in their lives as well as involving her in this new life. Aimee was loved very much by all four of her siblings.
Alan and I went on to have a long happy marriage–24 years–before I had to say goodbye.
While I played the guitar and made up bedtime songs on the spot for Aimee when she was growing up, I never truly went back to music or sought it out as a career again after I left GoGirls! Aimee’s 18 now, 19 in a few months, the same age I was when my music career was at a high and I met her father. She’s trying to figure out what she wants out of her life, she’s going to come to the reunion with me and I’m happy about that. I want her to see what I was like at her age and that her possibilities in life, especially at her age are endless.
**Reference: Marsden J 1998, Everything I Know About Writing, Pan Macmillan, Australia.